The CIA is capable of bypassing encryption on a number of popular messaging apps including WhatsApp, according to newly released WikiLeaks documents.
The whistle-blowing organisation has just published 8,761 files, which Julian Assange claims account for “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA”.
The enormous release is the first of several comprising the ‘Vault 7’ collection.
A WikiLeaks release claims that the CIA uses malware and hacking tools to remotely hack smartphones and turn TVs into covert microphones.
“These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the ‘smart’ phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied,” it continues.
The claim will cause huge concern among WhatsApp users, many of whom reacted furiously to news that the app would start sharing data with Facebook last year.
The plans were scrapped after Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham launched an inquiry into the arrangement.
The WikiLeaks release suggests that government spies have had access to users’ messages all along, despite WhatsApp’s use of end-to-end encryption, which is designed to protect users’ privacy.
However, the suggestion is that the CIA hasn’t been hacking WhatsApp, but working its way around the app’s encryption tools by attacking users’ smartphones.
The Vault 7 files were handed to WikiLeaks by a source who intended for them to start a conversation about whether the CIA had gained too much power, according to the group.
Mr Assange claims that, by publishing the documents, WikiLeaks has ensured that the CIA has "lost control of its arsenal".